Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress is Not a Disorder

So I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a correspondent say, in passing, that they are dropping the “D” from PTSD and that it will just be called PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress) these days, not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I wanted to put in my two cents and say I whole-heartedly support this decision. It is not a mental disorder to have a mix of anxiety, depression and anger after a major traumatic event. (In most cases, we’re talking about war-time experiences, a rape, and things equally horrifying). After the shit some people have gone through, it is totally normal and natural to have those reactions. I would be more concerned by people who saw and dealt with death and near-death situations *without* being messed up by it.

Thumbs up to the military/psych community for beginning to change this language. The only damage such a change might bring is if insurance companies somehow find ways to weasel out of paying for the treatment of PTS because it is no longer “technically” a “disorder.” But I have (some) faith that the people in charge are smart enough to see their way around the dropping of one word from a diagnosis, and realizing that treatment is still needed, all the same.

The Washington Post released an article with a good discussion on whether PTS is more like a bullet wound or a bipolar/depressive mental disorder.

PTS is an issue I’m exploring with my character, Vayne, who (in my novel) is a mental/physical torture survivor. It’s one thing to handle the topic in fiction, but the reality for many people in the real world is much, much worse. My heart goes out to all of those who struggle with PTS daily.

Time Magazine had a short online article on the topic, you can find it here:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

COVER REVEAL: The Empress Game – Debut Space Opera

It’s finally here, the long-anticipated cover for my space opera/science fiction novel The Empress Game!

I love everything about it. They couldn't have captured Kayla, the female protagonist, any more perfectly.

Here’s the back of the book blurb:

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage, it’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament–the Empress Game–has been called, and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds.

The battle for political power isn't contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a political dance that will shape the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

The Empress Game is set to release in July 2015.

Pre-order The Empress Game at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Add The Empress Game to your “To be Read” shelf at Goodreads

Friday, August 1, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

This week the fabulous Jen Brooks tagged me in to do a post on my writing process. Check out her answers to the questions here:

And here are the questions!

1)      What am I working on?

I am working on the sequel to my debut novel, a space opera titled Empress Game. This will be the second in a trilogy and is called Cloak of War. It follows Kayla and her family of psionics in their fight to free their homeworld from occupation by the Sakien Empire.

2)      How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In a genre with ray guns, plasma rockets, ion pistols and so forth, there can be a lot of shoot outs. I like to bring the more personal elements of fighting into the action, and include gritty hand to hand combat in my novels. I like to showcase martial arts and the use of a good old-fashioned head butt to bring immediacy to the character’s struggles.

I also have kick-butt female protagonists, willing to sacrifice everything in their dedication to their goals. Now if only the men could keep up with them! ;-)

3)      Why do I write what I do?

I write speculative fiction (and space opera in particular, in this case) because it gives me freedom to explore any plot I want because the world-building is in my hands. If I want to see how a character would react to sudden freedom of choice after being the victim of mind-control for 5 years, I can create a sci-fi world in which that kind of set-up is possible. (Cloak of War is exploring that very topic!)

I also write kick-butt female heroes because a) there are just too few of them in literature/movies, b) I love to explore the strengths, mental and physical, of women, and see what they can do when driven to the edge, then past it. I have a lot of strong female role models in my family, and that’s just what comes natural to me, writing a character strong enough in her own way to meet and master any challenge.

4)      How does my individual writing process work?

Oh man, I could write a book on this topic! Honestly, and I suspect this is true of most writers, my processes is an amalgam of all types.

I do my best writing when I’ve already outlined. I love outlining. With an outline in hand, I can tackle a scene and only worry about the words, not also having to come up with the plot at the same time. Ideally I’d outline all the time.

But, I’m impatient, and a little lazy. Sometimes things don’t come to me. I have no idea what happens in the plot next. In that case, the only way to shake loose the story is to write. I put one word in front of the other, painfully sometimes, just typing and telling myself, “I can always rewrite this later.” I say, “Okay, write 500 words and see what happens.”

Sometimes they’re crap and I get nowhere ;-) But usually, it gets me going and slowly the wheels of plotting start to turn again. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. If you’re “blocked,” then you’re just not being versatile enough in your process. If one avenue isn’t working, attack it from a different direction: outline, free write, take a walk while musing on it, listen to suitable music, do a mock interview with your characters, read a book on writing craft (this usually gets me crackin’), try word association, write a list of things you don’t  know yet, and start thinking of the answers.

I like that last one a lot. Don’t ask yourself “what happens next,” ask “what would happen if she just gave up here?” or “Why is my villain so angry?” or “How does the nanovirus I’ve created actually work, on a scientific level?” Thinking of these details gets you going on how they affect the plot.

In the end I’d say my process is outlining whenever I can, and knowing that I need to utilize every other process at some point in the creation of a novel to keep me going.

Want to hear what two other great authors have to say to these questions? Check out:

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Writer/Producer Diana Dru Botsford's work runs the gamut from novels to the screen including several Stargate SG-1 novels, the Star Trek TNG episode, "Rascal's" and the award-winning science fiction webseries "Epilogue."  She most recently contributed to the up-and-coming Stargate short story anthology, "Far Horizons," due from Fandemonium this fall. Check out her answers here:

And fellow Southwest Florida Romance Writer Patty Campbell

Patty Campbell has just finished the second book in her military romances, and has begun hero number 3's story. Her fascination with the USMC is part of family history. Check out her answers on her blog:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dreams Do Come True – I got THE CALL

I can finally answer that most magical of questions we writers ask each other: “What were you doing when you got THE CALL?” (“The Call” is that amazing moment when an editor/or your agent calls to say, “we/they want to buy your book!”)

I got THE CALL after work, and I was doing two of my fave things: Listening to The Brother Kite and playing World of Warcraft.

Earlier in the week, my agent, Richard Curtis, had called to tell me that we had “a nibble” on Empress Game, my space opera. Titan Books was apparently interested, and they wanted to know if Empress Game was going to be part of a trilogy. The honest answer? I have no idea! I’d lost a little faith that Empress Game would be “the book” that I sell to a major publisher, and had already moved on to working on a new epic fantasy novel. I hadn’t thought past Empress Game as far as space opera was concerned.

But hey, if you’ve got a publisher’s interest, you better be ready with something!

So I scrambled to come up with 2 book blurbs that might be possible for books 2 and 3 of a trilogy. My two critique partners, Diana Botsford and Jen Brooks were a tremendous help. I called them in a panic, saying “I have no ideas!” and they helped me to realize that of course I had ideas, I just hadn’t considered any of them seriously yet.

The two blurbs were sent and I held my breath, waiting to see if Titan Books was more than just “interested.” When my agent called me two days later with THE CALL, he surprised the heck out me, but not for the reason you’d expect. Here’s what he said:

“I haven’t heard back from Titan yet. I’m calling because Ace Books made an offer on the trilogy.”

I might have fainted.

I definitely said “Holy shit!” (Real professional of me, right?)

So that started off what would be a tense wait. Richard brought the offer over to Titan Books to see if they wanted to counter-offer. One week of intense nail-biting later, I got more amazing news…Titan wanted the book too!

I definitely fainted at that point.

Negotiations ensued, and now I can proudly say, I am the newest Sci-Fi author of TITAN BOOKS!

Here is the announcement of the deal as it appeared on Publisher’s Marketplace:
February 11, 2014

International rights:
UK Fiction 

Rhonda Mason's debut EMPRESS GAME, the first in a space-opera trilogy, in which an exiled psionic gladiatrix goes undercover to fight and free her homeworld from imperial occupation and discovers she holds the key to a galaxy-wide struggle for political domination, to Alice Nightingale of Titan, at auction, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates (world English).
Translation: Baror International Agency